All-Blogs.net directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: 11/01/2008 - 12/01/2008

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Caps get "Mased" in front of packed house!

Two game losing streak... 3 game losing streak at home.. one of the game's best players in this house for only the second time ever... a top Eastern conference team... a packed house.... how the Jackets would respond was anyone's guess...

So what do they do? Mason pitches his 2nd shutout... their captain scores 2 big time goals and the Jackets grab a huge two points in standings and end their 3 game home losing streak.

All in a night's work!


STOPLIGHT GAME REVIEW


GREEN
* First off... AWESOME crowd last night. Looked like a damn near sell out and at 17,400+ it almost was. I love it went that place is packed and you can bet the players feed off that energy and the fans were rewarded. Well done Cbus!

* Steve Mason was fantastic. He got his second shutout and some game saving stops.. I really love that early save on Backstrom in the 1st of a scoreless game when he was in alone... Backstrom scores there and who knows where this game turns.. just key goaltending and no doubt you have to keep playing this kid.....he's giving the Jackets a chance to win every time he's in the net. He tracks the puck so well and LOVE that glove on Ovechkin in the 2nd... sweet.

* The Monster Nash was indeed a monster. A couple of big time goals including the back breaking short handed goal in 3rd...on a breakaway (finally!)... it just wasn't his scoring either.. his line was dangerous all night.. he drew penalties and was big on the kill.

* He's not getting rewarded enough but Huselius is playing outstanding hockey.. he's creating... he's backchecking..he's skating hard and well... he's just been snake bitten but the key, like Nash when he was slumping, is that he's getting chances... an how many posts has this dude hit?

* Commodore and Hejda... what a game by this duo.. held the Ovechkin line scoreless... were a combined plus +5... They each threw 3 hits.. .Hejda had 4 blocked shots.. and both played over 24 minutes.

* PK was great... always helps when your goaltender is our best killer which Mason was.

* Was great to see Torres pot one and get rewarded for his solid play the past few games. In fact that line of Modin-Peca-Torres did a solid job themselves shutting down Ovechkin's line. Also liked Modin's work in front of the net on the PP and he was driving the net well last night -- would like to see more games from him like last nights.

* That sounds of the game segment on FSN during the 2nd intermission was slick.

* Cool to see two former Ohio State first round picks in RJ Umberger and David Steckel going at it in the NHL level. Umberger got on the board with a nice drop to Nash on his first goal... Steckel is a maniac in the circle winning 71% of his draws (12 of 17)... and to top it off the hockey Buckeyes also won last night in a come from behind 3rd period win over 14th ranked Omaha-Nebraska.

* Great promotion with the youth hockey sticks. Would love to see more of that.

* Tyutin seems to get more and more confident by the game... I really like him paired with Methot. He had 4 shots and logged over 23 minutes.

* Had a couple of new young hockey fans with me last night ages 12 and 13.... they now love #61... hope you had a good time guys.

* Russell was a solid again... move well, got some pucks through.. took hits to make plays.

* Man is Ovechkin fun to watch...

YELLOW
* Much better in the circle last night winning 51%. Peca showed the importance of winning an offensive zone faceoff on Torres' goal...and then Methot showed what happen when you get shots through from the point which created chaos in front of the cage. Manny was king of the dot winning 13 of 16 for 81%.

* There line wasn't bad but it seemed like a quiet night for the "goat" line. Chimera worked hard, especially defensively. Brass seems to be fighting the puck a bit lately...perhaps going through bit of a rookie slump which will happen. I liked the confidence Hitch showed in Brass and Voracek throwing them out there in the dying seconds with a shutout on the line.

* Another decent game for Backman... I think it helps to keep this guy's minutes limited which Hitch is doing.. he only played 11+.

RED
* PP came up empty handed again and we took a lot of penalties but hard to critique much when you win a game 3-0 so I'll just sit back and enjoy this win!

3 BRIGHT LIGHTS ON THE NIGHT
1. Attendance. Aaahhhh...love a full barn!
2. Mason. Shutout #2....this kid is rolling.
3. Nasher. Timely goals to help lift this team to a much needed win.
HM: Torres for his first goal of the season and as a Jacket.

If you recall last year when we played the Caps Nash had a 5 on 3 shorthanded goal however the Jackets ultimately lost in OT off a Ovechkin shot from the circle. Fast forward to tonight and its Nash on the board again with a shorthanded tally but its the Jackets as a team that kept Ovechkin off the board for the win.

This victory moves Columbus to 10-10-3 on the season. They will look to get on a roll against a Luongo-less Vancouver team at home on Monday.

Enjoy your Sunday!

-LTL

Monthly highlight vids

Courtesy of IgnatiusReilly over on HF:

October


November


Great work!

-LTL

Tyutin Red Line Shot

If your looking for a compliment to the "Stinger" for the new R Bar Mike...there ya go!

Anyhow....in case you missed the game last night check out Tyutin's goal from the red line:



Yep..between Pascal and Osgood we were treated to a goaltending clinic last night.

-LTL

Costly mistakes doom Jackets

Unfortunately for the Jackets they did what they couldn't do if they wanted to win this game...and that was take too many penalties. The NHL's top PP by a wide margin of course made them pay with two goals... and then when Osgood gift wrapped at least a point for them with allowing an inexplicable goal from beyond the blueline the Jackets failed to capitalize and then the goaltending fell apart in the final two minutes.

..and so it goes for this team. They have been in just about every game but its special teams and breakdowns that are continuing to bite them.


STOPLIGHT GAME REVIEW


GREEN
* Even strength they were solid and generated a lot of chances..

* Loved Tyutin... his little play to buy some time and float that wrist shot on net..with traffic...is the kind of play we need consistently from our blueline.

* Even though he lost his fight, this was Jarred Boll's best game in a long time. Showed solid poise with the puck...was connecting on his checks.. working hard...solid game.

* Russell was fantastic... skated the puck well and got wrist shots through... used his speed.. his pass to Huselius for his breakaway was excellent. He had some nice defensive plays as well.

* Jackets didn't get pushed around outhitting the Wings 27 to 17.

* I thought Hejda was phenomenal defensively tonight and didn't give up a whole lot when he was out there.

* At least Syracuse and OSU hockey won tonight.

YELLOW
* Jackets tried their best to stay in this one...even strength it was a 2-2 game... alas they couldn't build momentum off that early x-mas gift from Osgood... couldn't score with the man up and couldn't win faceoffs when really needed such as in the dying minutes of the 3rd.

* Voracek has looked solid the past two games. Was nice to see him get one.

* Same with Torres.. I've liked his game the past couple of nights.. he really needs to get one... he did take a dumb penalty early in the 1st.

* Backman had his moments both positively and negatively.

* Thought Umberger and Methot were good... Huselius again had some glorious chances but has taken over from Nash in the break-away snake bitten department... we really need those goals to fall.

RED
* Pazzy..oh Pazzy... you cannot let that soft goal in by Hossa with 2 minutes left... he looks shaky and the team looks less confident in front of him.. back breaking goal. Hossa's first goal was also of the very soft variety and I was surprised the team didn't buckle after that one. He did have a nice paddle save there at the end.

* Two games in a row where the Jackets have given up the game winning goal within the final two minutes.

* Commodore a couple of real bone headed penalties.

* Jackets were brutal on the faceoffs win just 38%.

* Tough night for Brass... he was definitely overmatched tonight versus the Wings centers... although he did have a couple of passes that gave some guys solid looks. I gurantee you this kid learned a lot about where he needs to take his game tonight...

* Powerplay same ole story...contributed nothing. PK allowed two but I give the some credit for killing back to back penalties in the 3rd to keep the game alive.

* Waaay to many penalties against this squad...and they paid for it.

* Modin has been very invisible lately and looks slow. I suspect he's battling an injury.

* Another short handed goal against...albeit the net was empty.

3 BRIGHT LIGHTS ON THE NIGHT
1. Even strength was good again.
2. Tyutin with two
3. Liked the grinders.. Boll, Murray, Manny, Torres all worked hard.

Back to the drawing board against a Caps team that shutout Montreal 3-0 last night. The Jackets haven't won at home in 3 games.... they fall to 9-10-3 after two solid games with dissapointing results.

M next question is are we back in must win mode again?

I'd say hell yes we are. The Jackets have to stop the bleeding on home tonight.

-LTL

Friday, November 28, 2008

Power play meter

I don't think Noel is the sole reason why the Jackets PP is a train wreck..but still this pic (courtesy of a poster on HF) is good for a laugh which is all we fans can really do when we are up a man (or two) at this point:

-LTL

Pre-game thoughts: One key

Stay out of the box.

At even strength I think the Jackets can play all night with tonight's opponent, the Detroit Red Wings, but if they get into penalty trouble they will be in trouble.

The Wings boast the league's best PP converting at 31.8%. That beats the 2nd place team, the St. Louis Blues, by a whopping 8.2%. They are tied with the San Jose Sharks for the league lead in 24 goals for with a 5 v 4 advantage. They also make you play 5 v 3 as they are tied for 2nd with 4 goals for.

Of course the Jackets struggles converting with 1 or even 2 men up are well documented. They come dead last in the PP and 28th in the league with 11 5 on 4 goals scored and tied for last place with 6 other teams with 0 goals 5 v 3.

On the PK neither team is great with the Wings coming in at 20th killing at 80.4% while Jackets are 21st killing at 80.2%.

At even strength though they are in the ballpark, hell they are sitting right next to each other in the dugout. Both the Jackets and the Wings are tied dead even at 10th in the league with 42 goals a piece.

Stay out of the box and keep this game even and the Jackets got a shot.

Also keep an eye on the Capitals. We play them at home tomorrow night and they are on the road tonight in Montreal.

GO JACKETS!

-LTL

Z drops em

You've probably seen this by now but in case you haven't, Zherdev dropped the gloves with super rookie Steven Stamkos on Wednesday night - its his first NHL fight (as well as Stamkos):



Atta boy Z!

(thanks for the heads up Colin!)

-LTL

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!


Just wanted to take a moment to wish everyone a happy and safe Thanksgiving today!


-LTL

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Power outage

I'll spare you all the stoplight for this one and cut right to the chase.

Raise your hand if you thought we'd win this one after failing to score on that 5 on 3?

The Jackets outplayed the Coyotes in every area except.....drum roll please.....special teams......and its certainly no shocker they lost a 3-2 game tonight despite outshooting, outhitting, outchancing, outfaceoffing and outplaying them. Its been their achilles heal all season and its starting to catch up with them.

The Jackets had all the momentum after coming back to tie the game 1 minute into the 3rd. They drew 4 penalties after that including the aforementioned extended 5 on 3 and came up with nothing....again. Its unacceptable... the PP has to win this game for them...they have to score in the 3rd and close out this game.... plain and simple... no excuses. Instead they allow the 'yotes to hang around and they make a late play to win it.

I don't want to hear that Tellqvist was sharp or that the 'yotes blocked a ton of shots.....or that we had a lot of shots on the PP and controlled it for spurts... or that its Mason's fault for allowing that last goal... its all BS... The PP is ranked 30th for a reason and this stuff has been happening all season. The Jackets lost this game b/c they couldn't convert on special teams and it starts and ends with the lack of skill on the blueline.

We can't get shots through... we can't back off their PK... we turn it over.. we can't keep pucks in... there is no movement.. decisions aren't made quick enough... we can't skate the puck out of trouble... we can't gain the blueline....its a wreck. All good PPs are generated from the backend -- just watch one of the top PPs in the league... hell, watch the top 15 PPs in the league and you'll see this instantly...

They have to find a way to score with 4 man advantages in the 3rd period of a tie game. All good teams do. Heck...we haven't even scored on a 5 on 3 yet this season (that should have been noted as a choke).

Howson has got to make a move.... we can't give points away like we did tonight... this is a team we will be battling for one of those final playoff spots and we just gave this game to them tonight b/c of our lack of execution a man up. Heck they've taken 6 of 6 points from us thus far.

Its a damn shame too b/c the Jackets overall played a helluva game. There were lots of players who played their asses off and no doubt they are even more frustrated than the fans watching.

Huselius was all over the place... that entire line with Nash and Brass was a beast. Umberger was extremely effective... Chimera was real active... Voracek came alive.... the 'D' didn't give up much... the team was physical as hell... Mason was beat on a couple of deflections but this game isn't on him...

I'm done with experimenting w/ this PP.... its over 20 games now and its time to call a spade a spade. Howson has to make a move here... call up somebody or work the phones and bring someone in... no more sitting on your hands and crossing fingers that we'll catch lightning in a bottle.

We aren't going to the playoffs with a 30th ranked PP. It absolutely must be better.

Its time for a move.

Detroit is next on Friday. Just sit back and watch how a PP is executed b/c believe me, if we take 4 penalties in the 3rd against them in a tie game...its lights out.

-LTL

Week 7 Power Rankings: All about Mase

TSN.ca
Rank: 22 (-6)
After Pascal Leclaire surrendered seven goals on 19 shots against the Oilers last week, the door opened a little wider for rookie Steve Mason (4-1-1, 2.28 GAA, .913 SVPCT), who has been Columbus' best goalie this season, and he then stopped a grand total of 15 shots to blank the Thrashers.

Yahoo.com
Rank: 20 (+1)
There are some missing pieces – a bona fide, experienced No. 1 center and a quarterback on the blue line – but the Blue Jackets are getting a look at what Steve Mason can do between the pipes, and that could help cover for some deficiencies.

CBSSports.com
Rank: 20 (-3)
Rookie Steve Mason has not looked out of place in his six starts. He's 4-1-1 with a .913 save percentage and a 2.28 GAA.

CBC.ca
Rank: 17 (-2)
Have played well, but can't climb the ladder.

ColumbusDispatch.com
Rank: 14 (+1)
Two ugly home losses -- vs. Phoenix and Edmonton -- make it easy to forget the Blue Jackets' 6-3-2 run since Oct. 27.

ESPN.com
Rank: 15 (-1)
Rookie goalie Steve Mason is making a play for the No. 1 job.

FoxSports.com
Rank: 19 (+1)
The Columbus defense was stellar in Week 7, giving up fewer than 20 chances in both of its games. But the goaltending was all over the map. In the only loss of the week, Pascal Leclaire gave up seven goals on only 19 chances. In the team's only win, rookie Steve Mason recorded his first NHL shutout by stopping all 15 shots he faced.

THN.com
Rank: 17 (unchanged)
Rick Nash has goals in his past five games

Sportsnet.ca
Rank: 16 (unchanged)
Steve Mason makes 15 saves to earn his first NHL shutout in a 2-0 win over listless Atlanta.

CNNSI.com
Rank: TBD

Meta-score: 17.77 (last week 16)

THN.com also had this to say in their leadup to their rankings:

Life as a hockey fan in Ohio has typically brought more lows than highs. And, thus far, it has never involved a playoff game.

But this year’s version of the Columbus Blue Jackets is doing its best to change things and a pair of rookies are playing a huge role.


Center Derick Brassard is battling Chicago’s Kris Versteeg for the top spot among rookie scorers, while freshman goalie Steve Mason has debuted with a 4-1-1 record and already has his first big-league shutout.

Another rookie, Jakub Voracek, hasn’t looked out of place either and don’t forget about skilled Russian Nikita Filatov, an 18-year-old who bagged his first NHL marker during a four-game stint with the Jackets.

With the youth movement in full swing, meaningful games late in the season are right around the corner in Columbus.


So there you have it.

TSN drops the Jackets a whopping 6 spots and ranks them the lowest at 22 (a bit harsh me thinks). The Dispatch has the Jackets comin in the highest at 14..... and what caller said this paper was to harsh on these guys?

The over-riding theme this week was Steve Mason's performance as his star continues to shine... (I hope I didn't just jinx him tonight).

-LTL

Pre-game thoughts: Re-run?


Coming off of a strong road performance in a 2-0 shutout over Atlanta and after a hard week of practice the Jackets will face a Phoenix Coyotes team at home tonight.

That scenario sound familiar?

The Phoenix Coyotes have owned the Jackets in two meetings thus far this season. The last butt-kicking coming at home on November 12th in a 5-2 loss.

The Jackest get another shot tonight against a Phoenix team that has lost its past 6 in a row -- think they aren't looking at this game against the Jackets to bust the slump?

KEYS TO LIGHTING EM UP
* Typically at home its the road team that has to weather the storm early. I get the feeling tonight it may be the Jackets that have to match 'yotes early intensity until they find their sea legs. Ideally the Jackets are the ones that come out fired up and get the early tally.

* Cannot fall behind early in this game or I think it could snowball once again.

* Kick them while they are down. The 'yotes are slumping in a bad way... don't be the team to let them pick themselves up. The Jackets have been the recipients of those kicks for many years -- time to start doin the kickin!

* Phoenix is led by Shane Doan and Oli Jokinen. Both have 19 and 18 points respectively. Contain these guys. Doan had his way with the Jackets in the last meeting.. Jokinen was aloud to set up for his wicked one timer which also burned them.

* Nash, Brass and Umberger have been doing most of the heavy lifting in the scoring department. Would be nice to see guys like Huselius, Chimera, Modin, Voracek, Torres and company pot a few.

* Jackets have had a hard time penatrating the Coyotes defenense and then beating Byrzgalov... need those dirty hard working goals tonight.

* Win the war of the trenches. The 'yotes have outworked the Jackets in every area of the ice. The Jackets have to get back to winning the little battles to get the 2 points.

*Now believe me when I say there ain't nothin special about either team's special teams. The Jackets have the 30th ranked PP, the 'yotes 29th. The Jackets have the 23rd ranked PK, the 'yotes 25th. If either team can get on the board with their PP it will probably be the difference.

* Mase just has to play like he's been playing and give his team a chance.

* Friggan hit these guys. No layups. If Doan has the puck put a body into him. I gurantee you I know one Jackets who will and that's Dorsett.

GAME SPOTLIGHT
Which team are we going to get tonight? The one that has gotten blown out of their own building their last two home games or the one that has played so well on the road?

Also it looks like Voracek is getting moved back up into the top 6. We'll see if that can give him a much needed spark.

QUOTE OF THE DAY
"In order to play against Phoenix, we need to have a different attitude," Hitchcock said. "They play with speed and tenacity, and we have to match that."

Puck drops at 7 p.m.

GO JACKETS!

-LTL

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Stat of the day

The Syracuse Crunch are 1-4 in their past 5 and 6-4-1 in their past 11.

Offense has certainly been an issue lately as the Crunch have scored just 3 goals over their past 4 games.


We'll see if Syracuse can break out of this slump this weekend as they have games against Toronto and Albany.

-LTL

Monday, November 24, 2008

Who's smokin, who's chokin - 20 game mark

Welcome back to another round of "Who's smokin, who's chokin".

For this round we'll take a look at who/what areas have performed well and who/what areas have plenty of room for improvement.

WHO'S SMOKIN
* Derick Brassard has been on fire since the first drop of the puck. He's tied with Chicago's Kris Versteeg in rookie scoring with 20p in 19 games. He's also a +9 and has a 6 game scoring streak. He's currently leads all Jackets in scoring and is tied for 21st in overall league scoring.

* Steve Mason. In 6 games played Mason is 4-1-1 with a .913 Save% and a 2.28 GAA. He's also got a shutout....and oh yeah, this kid is a rookie!

* Rick Nash. After a prolonged slump in the goal scoring department Nash is on fire scoring a goal in each of his past 5 games. In fact in his past 10 games Nash has 13 points. He's currently 15th in goal scoring and 28th in overall scoring in the league.

* Even strength. The CBJ are 8th in the league at even strength scoring 40 goals 5 on 5. At 4 on 4 the Jackets are 2nd scoring 4 goals.

* Overall scoring. The Jackets are tied for 12th in the league in total scoring racking up 59 goals.

* First NHL goals. Voracek, Filatov, Methot & Dorsett have all recorded their first NHL goals through the first 20 games.

* Rookie impact. Brassard, Voracek, Methot, Dorsett & Mason have all been impact rookies for the Jackest who have may key contributions.

* Road record. Believe it or not the Jackets are very respectable 4-4-2 on the road.

* Offseason acquisitions making an impact. While Backman and Torres (who actually had a great game the other night) have struggled Umberger, Commodore, Huselius and Tyutin have all had a positive impact and are producing. Umberger is tied for 2nd in goal scoring with 8. Commodore has 9 helpers which leads all Jackets defensemen. Tyutin is leading the Jackets in minutes played and keeps getting better. Huselius has 13 points in 19 games and does a tremendous job settling things down at there with his puck poise.

* Mike Commodore is 12th in NHL defensemen in hits with 51. Jan Hedja is 27th with 41.

* Jan Hejda is 17th in NHL defesemen with 43 bocked shots. Mike Commodore is 21st with 41.

* Although he's slowed of late Jason Chimera is off to the best start of his career collecting 5g, 9a for 14 points in 20 games. The best part though has been his patience and poise with the puck and his play in all 3 zones.

* The checking line centered by Michael Peca has been very good. I've loved Peca on the PK most nights.

* After digging themselves an early hole the Jackets have dug themselves out going 5-2-3 in their last 10. The players have done a good job staying resilient I give coaching and management a lot of credit here for keeping everyone focused.

* We have replays ladies and gentlemen!

* The Jackets beat some top teams in that first 20 including Montreal, Buffalo, Vancouver & Calgary.

* Depth Depth Depth! The Jackets team has shown that it is by far deeper than any team we've seen before. If someone goes down there is now quality depth both on the team and in the farm to pick up the slack.

* The Jackets finally beat Nashville in regulation!

* Garage Bar for their good beer specials and tater tots.

* The Jackets are 14th in face off % winning 50.3% of the time.

* The great readers of this blog and their excellent contributions in the comments!!

WHO'S CHOKIN
* Special teams. 30th ranked PP at 11.7%. The PK is 22nd killing at 80%. Needless to say they've both been brutal through the first 20. If they could ever get them rolling who knows, the sky could be the limit.

* Attendance. Columbus is 29th out of 30 teams in attendance coming in at 13,384 per game. Lots of hoping here. I hope as this team plays better people start noticing. I hope the marketing staff can find new ways to promote this team (CBJ rush as was mentioned in Puck-rakers). I hope things pick up after football season. That's a scary low number.

* Refs reversal on Nash in Minnesota (yeah, that one still burns me up).

* Leclaire on going injury problems.

* One timers and in general offense from the blueline when up a man. Even strength this group has looked real good. Up a man its been brutal as team know to pressure our blueline and really expose it as a weakness.

* Home record. The Jackets are 5-4-1 at home including playing two of their worst games all season. They need to do a much better job in their own house.

* The Jackets are 2-3 in OT. Those are all precious points that we can't afford to let slip away although I'm fully aware you aren't gonna win em all.

* The Jackets need to do a better job of playing teams below or equal to them in the standings. Islanders and two Phoenix losses sting.

* No R Bar yet... its comin soon though folks!!

* Norrena has really struggled going 1-3-3 with a 3.16 GAA and a .817 save%. His days as a Jacket may be coming to a close.

* Backman. His performance is well documented here.... basically he started off okay and then his play really took a nose dive. Salary dump, mis-advertised, whatever -- at 3.4 mil a year the Jackets need better play.

* Boll. Hand injury in the offseason. Concussion. He had a rough 20 games which has to be directly related to his injury problems.

* Raffi Torres is goalless so far as a Jacket in 10 games. He's of course coming off injuries so a slow start isn't totally unexpected. Still I think its safe to say everyone hopes he has a more productive next 20.

* There are some other players who, while they haven't been horrible, I think can be a lot stronger. Names like Modin, Klesla, Leclaire, Malhotra & Novotny are all guys I think fall into that category.


Bottom line is that the Jackets are very much in this thing after 20. The great news is that I don't think they've come close to playing their best hockey yet.

Check out the new poll to give your thoughts on who/what has smoked the most over the first 20.

-LTL

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Congrats Crew!!

Congrats to the Crew for their first MLS title in 13 years!!

Way to represent Columbus fellas!!

That's one cup down, I look forward to the day when the Jackets bring home the other!

-LTL

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"The Goal"

A friend of mine hand drew this picture of "The Goal":




Yeah I think that drawing classifies as "badass!"...

Anybody intersted in reprints please contact Gabe @ grostorfer@gmail.com.

-LTL

Friday, November 21, 2008

This and that


Some interesting comments from Freddy Norrena in this morning's 'patch:

"I don't want to discuss anything with the media," Norrena said. "I don't need this."

Norrena apparently was upset about a Dispatch story earlier this month in which the current glut of goaltenders was compared with another one -- Marc Denis, Martin Prusek and Pascal Leclaire -- at the start of the 2005-06 season.

"You compare me to Martin Prusek? I am not Martin Prusek, OK," Norrena said. "I am not Martin Prusek. I am trying to do a good job and be a professional. That's what I'm trying to do. That's all I can do right now. And I'm not going to talk about it with the media."

Not sure I understand the problem with Prusek other than the fact that was the last time the Jackest had a 3-headed monster betweent he pipes. Perhaps there is some history between the two?

Overall these comments aren't suprising though. Norrena is a competive guy and he wants to play like everyone else so when I read he's frustrated its to be expected.

Here were Howson's comments on the situation:

"We're going to continue to evaluate how Steve does, and we're going to keep making sure that we're making the right decision by Steve and by our team," Howson said. "The three-goalie system does get awkward at some point. But it's a necessity right now, as far as we're concerned."

Bottom line is that the organization has lost all confidence in Freddy. In 8 games played he's credited with 1 win and 3 losses (he's relieved Pazzy a few times). His GAA is 3.16 and his save% is .872. Horrible numbers for a goalie.

Basically it comes down to this (and Eric mentioned this in the comments of a previous post)... The organization will hang on to Freddy until they have seen enough from Steve Mason to either 1. keep him up for the rest of the season or 2. send him down for more season. If they go with 1. then Norrena is history be it waivers, traded, back to Europe what-have-you. It its 2. then they'll ship Mason down to get more work in the minors and keep Norrena has a backup for relief purposes only.

Either way I think his days are done in terms of starting NHL games for the Jackets barring both Leclaire and Mason getting injured at the same time.

Good Pierre Lubron column on the Calder race and here is some varoius comments on Brassard:

"The biggest compliment a young player can get is when the coaching staff treats him like a veteran player, and that's how we treat him," Hitchcock said. "We just count on him every day. His performance isn't a bonus for us. It's needed. And he hasn't let us down."

Brassard was taken sixth overall in the 2006 NHL draft, but unlike some high picks in recent years, he didn't make the jump as an 18-year-old. He went back to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for another season and spent most of last season in the AHL. He came to camp ready this summer. The Jackets had openings at center, and Brassard didn't miss his chance.

"He's grabbed it and taken it," Hitchcock said. "Every person in this organization knew how qualified he was offensively. We knew he had really good offensive tools. I think the thing that's been impressive is his responsibility when the other team has the puck. I think that's what has made him have the season he's had so far. He's been really accountable and really competitive when he's checking people. I think that's the part that's impressed everybody. His competitive level has really given him a chance to be a competitive player."

Music to Hitchcock's ears? Brassard's being plus-8.

Lots of love for Doughty but if Brass can keep up this pace its going to be real hard to deny him the hardware. The one thing he's got over most of these other rookies is he's a year or two older and has a year of AHL grind under his belt. Still lots of season to go of course.

Scott Burnside grades the Jackets at the 1st quarter mark:

Columbus Blue Jackets: C-plusThe Blue Jackets are another team that hit the quarter mark looking for that elusive quality called consistency. Pascal Leclaire is back after a couple of stints on the injury shelf and his return to form is crucial to the Blue Jackets' hopes of making the playoffs for the first time in team history. Rookies Derick Brassard, who leads all rookies in scoring, and Jakub Voracek have shouldered a surprising offensive load. Still, there are a lot of questions, including whether there is a natural center to play with star Rick Nash and if the revamped defense can cut down on its first-quarter mistakes.

Pretty fair assessment.

Lindsay Kramer on Kris Russell:

Syracuse defenseman Kris Russell had no points in his first four games with Syracuse. In his last six games, he has two goals and five assists. Wednesday, I asked him about the turnaround.

"I think the first couple games you have to adjust to the league,'' he said. "This is a tough league. The first couple of games you come down, you're confused. It's a transition. Lately, it's been a progression. Confidence is a huge thing. It's the reason why you play good.''


How long until this kid get re-called? Only a matter of time IMO.

I can see the agrument of letting him bake even longer down there and giving a shot to a guy like Wilson. I don't see Wilson in the long term plans so why not give him a shot short term? Where as Russell is certainly in the long term plans so his development and confidence is the key at this stage -- playing yo-yo with him could hurt more than help.

Hockey watch.

The 5-5-1 hockey Buckeyes play two games at Northern Michigan this weekend starting tonight at 7:35 a.m.

The Syracuse Crunch play 3 games in 3 night starting tonight Albany. They'll take on Albany again at home tomorrow and then finish up at home on Sunday against Binghamton.

Another great weekend to see how Filatov/Mayorov/Russell and co. perform over a tight and challenging 3 game stretch.

Another quick side note on Filatov/Mayorov.
Kramer also reported in his blog that both players will not be participating in two exibition games leading up to the World Junior Championships in December. The reason, at least publicly, is due to the inability to work out an insurance agreement for both players.

-LTL

Thursday, November 20, 2008

CBJ Bingo

The latest & greatest "CBJ Bingo" creation from the #1 anonymous CBJ hockey blogger: Mattlund!


For some more good natured fun be sure to check out bog-rakers.

-LTL

Week 6 Power Rankings: Jackets nudge up

Yahoo.com
Rank: 16 (+3)
Kristian Huselius has provided the skill Scott Howson was looking for. After a slow start, R.J. Umberger is coming on. He has seven goals in his last eight games.

CBSSports.com
Rank: 17 (+4)
Key offseason acquisition R.J. Umberger is finally paying dividends after a scoreless October. Umberger has seven goals in eight November games.

TSN.ca
Rank: 16 (-1)
The Jackets have recorded points in eight of the last nine, even though the power play is 1-for-22 (4.5%) in the last five games.

Sportsnet.ca
Rank: 16 (-2)
The Blue Jackets are inching closer and closer to that elusive eighth and final playoff spot (I know, I know, there's still lots of time left).

CBC.ca
Rank: 14 (-1)
If they can find a front-line centre...

FoxSports.com
Rank: 18 (-1)
Derick Brassard picked up at least a point in each game last week for the Jackets, but the club still managed to lose two of them. Columbus was only able to light the lamp once on the power play last week, while giving up three extra-man goals to its opponents.

CNNSI.com
Rank: 18 (+2)
Considering most teams live and die by the power play, it's a miracle the Jackets can even sniff .500 let alone stand a game above it. They've scored just five times with the extra man in their last 14 games, clicking at a pathetic 7.5 percent pace. Over the same span, they've coughed up four shorties. As strong as rookie Derick Brassard has been, it may be too early to use him on the point for the PP. On the plus side, Pascal Leclaire returned after an eight-game stint on IR, reclaiming his starting role with a 6-1 win over Buffalo. Look for Steve Mason to be returned shortly to the AHL.

ColumbusDispatch.com
Rank: 15 (unchanged)
A 5-1-3 stretch has them back above water, but the ugly loss to Phoenix begs the question: can these guys be trusted?

ESPN.com
Rank: 14 (-2)
Ken Hitchcock is keeping the Jackets competitive despite a league-worst 11.9 percent power play that has scored just one goal in its past 25 chances.

Meta-score: 16 (last week 17.6)

Lots of comments about Brassard, Umberger and the PP struggles.

This week its ESPN and CBC who give the Jackets the highest ranks at #14 while FoxSports and CNNSI clock in with the lowest at 18.

With only two games this week, including a blow out loss to Edmonton on Friday, the Jackets need a win in Atlanta on Saturday or else we'll see a pretty big tumble this time next week.

-LTL

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Legein update

CBC just posted a radio interview with Stefan Legein's parents that talks about:

Top NHL prospect 19-year-old Stefan Legein puts his hockey hopes on hold while he considers whether it's really what he wants to do with his life. His parents talk about his struggle and what they hope for their son, in a documentary by Teddy Katz. Also, a recent study shows female hockey players are twice as likely as males to suffer concussions. Coach, consultant and former player Kim McCullough explains why and what can be done to reverse the trend.

You can listen here.

There is also a good read about Derick Brassard from Wes Goldstein of CBSSports:

Moreover, Brassard has become the quarterback of the team's power play, and after starting the season on the second line between Voracek and Jason Chimera, he has been moved up to the anchor the Blue Jackets top line. In a strange way, Brassard's ability to earn so much ice time so quickly has created some concern for Hitchcock. "I think sometimes it's a little bit unfair for younger players to play that role because over time they get exposed to other teams top pair of defensemen, who are you know bigger guys, and they get the other top teams centers over time," Hitchcock said. "That's what happens when you aren't under the radar any more.

"There's no question he was at the start of the season, but he definitely has everyone's attention now. I'm seeing it because other teams are changing on the fly to play against his line. He goes against really good players every night."

One reason is that Brassard has found a comfort zone between wingers Rick Nash and Kristian Huselius. The unit has been the best and most consistent for the Jackets of late as they try to hang around the .500 mark and vie for their first playoff appearance ever. Brassard is doing his part and in the process putting himself in contention for the rookie of the year award, something few people would have considered him for only a couple of months ago.

"I guess that would be nice, but the only thing I think about it is helping this team get to the playoffs," Brassard said. "I want to make a difference."


Read the rest here.

-LTL

Stat of the day

Columbus is 0-6-3 when allowing the first goal.

I know this was a chronic problem last season but with the way our goal scoring is up frankly I'm shocked to see that we have yet to win a game where we didn't score first.

Then again I should know better!

Here is another stat... Derick Brassard has 19 points in 18 games which is good for 17th overall in league scoring.

Nash's 17 points in 19 games puts him tied for 26th and I think its safe to say we have yet to see the best from 61.

-LTL

Swiss cheese

Now I know how Buffalo fans felt on Friday night.

For the majority of two periods the Columbus Blue Jackets controlled the play..... however the chances they gave up were "doozies" and Pascal Leclaire had more holes than a pair of 1980s levi jeans. He was burned for 7 goals on 19 shots.

The special teams continue to be horrific.... the PP was on life support before who knows what state you could call it now. The PK isn't much better giving up 2 goals on 3 PP chances for Edmonton.

Other than giving the Columbus Crew a round of applause it was a forgettable night.


STOPLIGHT GAME REVIEW


GREEN
* Pretty sad when the play of the game was a Michael Peca header....

* Edmonton showed us what its like to be able to one time shots from the point.... I felt like Ralphi looking through the store window drooling over a Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model BB gun watching those guys work that PP....

YELLOW
* At least Derick Brassard kept piling up the points... and Rick Nash kept his goal streak alive. Actually points aside I thought these guys, along with Huselius, played well last night..... that was the best puck control I've seen from Nash in a while as he gained the zone on multiple occasions.

* The Jackets controlled the majority of the play for two periods but when you can't score on the PP and you can't get timely goaltending it all goes to waste.

* I liked Chimera again last night... same with Umberger.
* Modin was working hard.

* Roloson was pretty solid most of the night. He made the saves he should, especially in the first two periods and then the Oil took it from there.

* It sure looked like more than 12000+ in attendance last night... well at least at the start..

* Edmonton was a shot blocking machine it seemed.. they were credited with 18.. we had 13 lead by 4 from Hejda..

RED
* Pascal Leclaire had a miserable night. Sure he didn't have a chance on a couple but you've got to make some key saves in there especially when the Jackets get on the board and make it a 3-1 game at the end of the 2nd. He just didnt' get it done and I"m sure he'd be the first to admit (in fact, I heard a sound bite this morning of him saying just that).

* The special teams play finally bit them big last night. This team can't continue to live on even strength play alone -- they need their PP and PK to make an impacte -- we saw what happened last night when it all fell apart.

* Manny Malhotra looked like he was skating in quick sand all night long. He had zero jump.

* Somebody put Kristian Backman out of his misery. Seriously, if Howson isn't going to make a move to bring someone in he's got to consider callup up one of Wilson/Russell/Sigalet to take a stab at running this PP.

* What happened to the heavy hitting, physical team we were supposed to ice this season? The Dispatch bloggers mentioned it and we all agreed last night, guys are not finishing their hits and making the opponents pay. Playing bumper cars was a great way to put it.

* No scrums.. no trash talking... not much emotion from anyone out there last night... and where is the Jared Boll from last year?

3 BRIGHT LIGHTS ON THE NIGHT
1. Columbus Crew tribute
2. Nash & Brass keep their point streaks alive
3. Drooling over Edmonton's pointmen

Unfortunately I think many of us though that a night like last night was entirely possible. Its the 2nd home game in a row where the Jackets have laid an egg coming off solid weekends.

The Jackets are off til Saturday and I can only hope a change of personnel is made to help the struggling PP. I think its also a damn near lock that Mason gets the pipes in Atlanta.

-LTL

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Touching article

Here is an article about rookie Nashville Predators forward Ryan Jones support of a 14 year old California teenager who passed away from choriocarcinoma, which is a very rare form of cancer.

Get the kleenexs ready before you read this one. You can read it here.

My hats off to Ryan Jones and my heart goes out to this young girl's family.

-LTL

News to me!

Was checking out Lindsay Kramers blog today and check out what he had to say about stick brands in the AHL:

Not to whine about it, or anything, but he is very unhappy playing with the league-mandated Reebok sticks instead of his usual Bauer. Each AHL can hand out stick exemptions to three players, and right now the lucky Crunch skaters are Kris Russell, Derek MacKenzie and Mike York.

(Side note. I know that Reebok pays a ton of money to the AHL for equipment rights, and of course the sporting goods giant knows how to make quality products. They will work with each and every player to try to make a stick they like. But no one type of lumber is for every player, and it amazes me that AHLers are forced to use one brand of equipment for the most important tool of their trade. This doesn't happen in the NHL, of course, because the NHL players union would go nuts.).

Filatov said he is uncomfortable using the Reebok stick. He got to use Bauer once this season, against Manitoba, because MacKenzie was injured. Filatov went 2-1 in that game.

"I really don't say a lot, oh, I can't play with these sticks,'' Filatov said. "I know as a young player, I have no way out of this. It is so difficult for people who don't play hockey a lot, (to know) how you can feel them in the hand, how they grip, is the stick stiff or flexible?''


Filatov has the right attitude about the situation but still you'd like an offensive player with his kind of talent to pick his tool of preference.

Speaking of Filatov, head on over the AHL.com and vote for him as best rookie here!

You've got to feel a bit sorry for the St. Louis Blues (okay, not really). They just lost their leading scorer Andy McDonald for at least two months and he joins Erik Johnson (who is out of for the season) and TJ Oshie who is out with a high ankle sprain.

Don't sprinkle any of that injury dust Columbus' way.

According to Lindsay Kramer both Filatov and Mayorov are indeed in demand for their home country for the World Junior tournament this December:

Both Filatov and Mayorov are strong candidates to play for the Russian national team at the World Juniors in late December and early January in Ottawa. Filatov played for Russian in that tournament last year.

The Russian team has exhibitions in Guelph on Thursday and St. Catharines on Monday. They'd like Filatov and Mayorov to join them.

There are two catches. Syracuse has games Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That can be worked around. Chris MacFarland, assistant GM of Columbus, said theoretically the two players could be excused from Sunday's Crunch game against visiting Binghamton. It would still be a tough grind, though, as the players would be looking at four games in four nights and five in six.

The bigger issue is getting enough insurance to cover Columbus' investment in the two players in case they get hurt. MacFarland said that's the snag holding up the deal.

"We've got some insurance issues that need to be worked out,'' MacFarland said. "For the club, we have to make sure those contracts are covered.''

If either player makes the World Junior team, they will be allowed to leave Syracuse to play in the tournament.


I think its an excellent decision to let these kids represent their country in this high profile tournament for a number of reasons:

1. It will help smooth over relations from them coming to play in NA this season.

2. Its highly competitive high pressure tournament that every ogranization would like their prospects to not only play in but thrive in!

3. The kids want to represent their country and a little good will now could go a long way in the future in terms of loyalty and commitment towards the Columbus Blue Jackets organization.

4. The tournament is in Ottawa so the Jackets can keep a close eye on these two -- i.e. you always worry in the back of your mind that they could leave and not come back... highly unlikely in this case.

Of course the draw back is Syracuse loses a couple of their key offensive cogs for a bit but you have to think when they return they will be that much better of players with their confidence sky rocketing. That and even with these two gone Syracuse still has a fairly stout lineup.

-LTL

Pre-game thoughts: Struggling Oilers up next

This game has all the makings of either disaster or euphoria for the Jackets.

The Edmonton Oilers, who have lost their past 3 games including a 4-0 thumping from the Red Wings last night, are up next for the 8-7-3 Jackets.

A team coming off 3 losses and playing a back to back on the road should be ripe for a nice pounding for a Jackets team who took 3 of 4 points on the road and have had a couple of days rest right?

Not so fast grasshoppers.

One word: Phoenix.

Remember just a short week ago the Jackets were riding high getting points in their previous 6 games including 3 straight wins only to show up at home and play their worst game of the season?

The Jackets better remember that performance and not sleep walk through this one because I guarantee you the Oil are looking at this game as a must win for their 8-8 squad.

KEYS TO LIGHTING EM UP
* Absolutely do not take the Oil for granted because of their recent struggles. The Jackets survived a game against them earlier this season despite blowing a 2 goal leading and training 4-2 in the 3rd.

* Lots off offensive struggles for the Oil besides Hemsky. The Jackets were able to pull out a win even though they couldn't keep Hemsky off the board during their last meeting.... that isn't going to happen most nights.

* Rattle Roloson. Its crystal clear by now it doesn't take much to get inside Rolo's craw. I'm not saying run the guy or anything but a snow wash here....a poke there....next thing you know Rolo's gonzo.

* Outside of Hemsky the majority of the Oil's offense is being generated from their blueline. We all know about Sourey's bombs (especially Chimera who probably still has a welt from the last time they met) but guys like Visnovsky, Gilbert and Grebeshkov are also dangerous back there. They are the ones that make the Oil's 14th ranked PP churn.

* Speaking of PP.... Jackets have to stay out of the box b/c unlike the Jackets, Edmonton can score with the man advantage.

* Need the usual... strong even strength play, 'tenders stopping the pucks they should, 100% team defense.. timely goals.

* Nasher is finding some recent success... never hurts to keep this guy going. Can Brass look more comfortable between he and Huselius tonight?

* Voracek up to the 3rd line and Torres down to the 4th. Voracek has hit a wall of sorts and the Jackets could use a spark from him. Torres appears to be fighting an injury hence the demotion.

* All I want is one PP goal.. just one!

* Oil have speed and talent but so many players are struggling offensively for them.. they only have two forwards in double digit scoring and they only have 43 goals in 18 games which is in the bottom 4 of the conference... if the Jackets can play like they did on the road they can shut em down but if they play anything like they did against Phoenix and try to glide through a game its light out.

GAME SPOTLIGHT
I'm looking at the first 5 minutes of this game to see how the Jackets come out for this one. If they come out like they did against Phoenix with no legs and looking completely disinterseted then it could be a long night. If they come out working like they did for most of the weekend then saddle up.

No TV for this one (unless you have CI) and I'm sure there are plenty of good seats available so c'mon down if you can make it!

Pretty cool gesture by the Jackets who will be honoring the Columbus Crew tonight before they face the New York Red Bulls in the MLS Cup finals this Sunday. I'll be looking forward to that.

With only two games this week the Jackest have no excuse but to come out hard and ready to compete for two more important Western Conference points tonight!

GO JACKETS!

-LTL

Monday, November 17, 2008

Shelley on the board

Not a whole lot to write about today as we wait for Edmonton but I gotta give some love to Jody Shelley tonight. He scored his first goal of the season and got in two fights... I only caught the second one but he won convincingly against Greg De Vries. Of course my next question is what is Greg De Vries doing fighting Jody Shelley ?

Regardless Shelley is one of those guys I'll always root for and it was fun to see him making a difference out there for the Sharks.

That game got ugly though... Sharks were up 4-0 and the Preds didn't go quietly. Tootoo got into a couple...suprise right? Heck even Joe Thornton dropped them.

San Jose is a lock for the playoffs so whenever they can knock off a team will be contending with the Jackets its a good thing. Unfortunately, as much as I hate to say it, the same goes for the Wings.

It was also cool that the San Jose player's dads made the trip to Nashville. They interviewed Shelley's dad at intermission - dude is a trip.

Speaking of the Wings... they knocked off Edmonton tonight 4-0. Edmonton has lost their past 3 and will be playing tomorrow on the tail end of a back to back. The Jackets have no excuses tomorrow but you better believe Edmonton is looking at that game as a must win.

Whom else caught the nugget from Puck-rakers about the Jackets players wanting game ops to pump up the music during games?

I'm certainly all for it as you can hardly hear it in the lower bowl and if the crowd isn't cheering, then why not blast some tunes.

I will caution though that before game ops should pump up the music, they have to actually pick some quality tunes to pump up first. i.e. no "if your happy and you know it clap your hands".. uggh.

Game ops has done a better job at replays (although they need to work on their quickness cutting to them after plays) they still have a long way to go in some areas to keep things fresh including their music selections. Hell, just let the players pick the tunes.

Finally we also heard today that Howson, at least publicly, is not currently pursuing any outside help for an extremely struggling powerplay.

Personally I can't and won't believe that. I'm sure he's kicked some tires but the price right now is probably more than he's willing to part with.

Fact of the matter though is that if the Jackets powerplay continues to sputter he's either going to have to take a hard look at re-calling Russell or giving Wilson or Sigalet a shot....or......he's got to make a move. The Jackets even strength play has been great but you can't continue to live on that all season, the Jackets are going to need to cash in on the powerplay to stay in this thing.

As I said in the previous post comments if Howson hasn't made a move yet by the deadline and the Jackets are still in the mix but still struggling on the PP, you've got to think a move is made then to bring in some offensive blueline help.

Until then its more trial and error with Chimera getting his turn. Why not right? It can't get any worse than where it sits at 30th in the league.

-LTL

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Jackets grab important point

This time Nash left no doubt when he tied up the game with a nifty and steal and equally swift backhand to tie the game at 2 7 minutes into the 3rd period.

This was Nash's 3rd goal in the past 3 games. Yeah, he's starting heat er up just in time for snow fall in central Ohio.

Actually overall the Jackets played a strong road game in the 2nd night of a back to back. Real strong. The Wild are a tough team to beat, especially at home. The Jackets didn't take any short cuts, they competed in the trenches, dumped and chased their way past the Wild's trap and scored timely goals to get the game to OT and earn a very important point.

If you would have told me before the two games this weekend that we'd take 3 of 4 points. I would have taken it and ran like I stole somethin.


STOPLIGHT GAME REVIEW


GREEN
* Overall just a solid road game. The Jackets competed in all areas and got much better as the game moved on.

* Nash was a force last night. He created both goals. He drove the net like we hadn't really seen much this year to create chaos in front of the net which resulted in Huselius getting the tally. Then he made a fantastic play to steal a pass from rookie James Sheppard and then he finally converted in 1:1 situation when he went to the backhand to beat Backstrom.

* I thought the Chimera-Manny-Umberger line was a excellent again. They didn't get on the scoreboard but they had some dominating shifts and chewed up a lot of key minutes. Manny was excellent in the dot winning 15 of 20.

* 3 of 4 points on the road against two very good team - oh yeah, that's ever-green! The weekend moved the Jackets to very respectable 3-4-2 on the road.

* Even strength play contiues to be the lifeline of this team. Two more goals tonight 5 v 5.

* I thought Mason was good once again. Not much he could do on either goal scored. He's stopped the shots he should and then some. This Mason vs. Leclaire pushing each other deal could really spark something here for the Jackets. Goaltending is just so important and if you get two guys competing against one another then the standard of play should only improve.

YELLOW
* It great to see Huselius get that late period goal but I love the way this guy is competing defensively. Skating back hard and breaking up some dangerous plays with the opposition. I've liked this guy all year long actually. He's had an off night or two but for the most part you know what your getting game in and game out.

* Hate to see the team compete so hard and lose in the shootout.

* The Jackets did a decent job staying out of the box collecting just 3 minors. Unfortunately one of those the Wild's PP converted on.

* Speaking of the Wild's PP....their defense is so good at moving the puck and are very mobile (just re-watch Kim Johnsson skate the puck out of trouble in his own end).... they are especially potent on the PP... both of their goals were generated off shots from the point. Look no further than that as a reason why our PP continues to sputter...we have nothing on the points.

* Jan Hejda lead all Jackets with a whopping 28 minutes of ice time. Unfortunately he finished a -1.

RED
* Nothing really stood out to me as being horrible last night. Backman has his typical night and Voracek looks like he's losing some confidence out there but that's really about it. Jared Boll has also been relatively MIA this season.
* For a sold out crowd it sure did seem pretty quiet in the Excel Center last night.

3 BRIGHT LIGHTS ON THE NIGHT
1. Jackets overall played a strong road game.
2. Best game from Nash in a while and a very timely forced turnover and subsequent goal to boot.
3. Chimera-Manny-Umberger line was strong again.

The Jackets move to 8-7-3 which gives them 19 points and ties them with Chicago and Nashville in the Central. Unfortunately the other teams haves games at hand so that number is a bit mis-leading.

Still the Jackets are getting important points in situations where in the past they failed to get.

Next up is the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday. Edmonton is a team who after a fast start has lost their past 2, including a back-breaker in OT to the Avalanche last night, and will certainly be ready to play come Tuesday. The Jackets cannot blow a tire like they did against Phoenix in their last appearance at home this past Wednesday.

A really good weekend. Need to keep the momentum going this week against the Oil and away in Atlanta on Saturday.

-LTL

Saturday, November 15, 2008

This and that

Lots of talk from the 'patch about Ottawa scouts being a fixture in Nationwide this season. TSN's Scott Cullen weighs in on the potential of the Sens dealing Jason Spezza and for who:

Columbus has long been searching for a pivot to join Rick Nash on the number one line and the Jackets probably have enough pieces to make a viable offer if they are willing ot surrender some of their top young prospects. Say, for example, that the Blue Jackets are feeling confident enough in young goaltender Steve Mason, they could offer Pascal Leclaire, a top young winger like Jakub Voracek or Nikita Filatov and, to get the salaries closer, how about declining veteran winger Fredrik Modin?

My personal opinion is that I don't see any scenario where Scott Howson deals for Spezza mostly due to his contract at a whopping 7 more years at 7 mil per. Spezza could certainly help but at that cap hit it was also hinder Howson's ability to re-sign other players which starts with extending Nash this summer. Remember this isn't New York where Howson can ring the cash register right up to the cap.

With the early success of guys like Brassard and Voracek (who admittedly has tailed off lately) I can't see him dealing those young pieces -- draft picks is where your high end skill comes from and where you core is developed -- if you draft and develop wisely of course.

Instead I'd have to think any potential trade would be for a more manageable top 6 player in the mold of a Antoine Vermette who is signed for 1 more year at 3 mil per.

NHL.com has a great read on RJ Umberger's early struggles and recent success here.

"We sat down together and talked about it," Umberger told NHL.com of a discussion he had with Hitchcock. "We went over the transition period and what it is like. He told me countless stories of other guys who struggled. We discussed where I could get better and we both agreed a few games on the wing to feel a sense of belonging, competitiveness and comfort level would help me in the long run."

"When I went back things were better right away," said Umberger, who entering Friday's game against Buffalo had 5 goals in his last six games. "I was going hard to the net in the corners and battling. It didn't matter what position I was playing. Learning how to play with Nash and Huselius, you have to know what supports them and how to make them a better player. In the first couple of games I found myself watching them because they are great one-on-one players."

The move really has seemed to have rejuvenated him although he found himself back at wing
again last night but also collected two more goals.

RJ is definitely playing now the way I envisioned he would when we got him. Just a solid NHL player who isn't fancy, but is effective and scores the blue collar goals.

He has suddenly found himself tied for 2nd with Nash in the team lead in goals with 7.

Pascal Leclaire was named 2nd star of the night with 36 saves off of 37 shots with a .938 save%. A well earned accolade.

Brassard is starting to really turn some heads. Here is the latest show of affection from The Hockey News:

Brassard isn't necessarily a late bloomer but it did take him an extra year to start making his mark with the Jackets. The 21-year-old was drafted sixth overall in 2006 and bounced between Columbus and Syracuse last season.

He spent the summer working with the NHL team's strength coach and came to training camp in the best shape of his life. Brassard is now thriving on a line with fellow rookie Jakub Voracek and veteran Jason Chimera.

It's helped that coach Ken Hitchcock has been patient with the two rookie forwards.

"We know sometimes we're going to make mistakes," said Brassard. "But we're learning and things are going pretty good right now."


I like this quote from RJ after last night's win:

“It was back to the grind with a lot of hard work. That’s what makes us successful.”—RW R.J. Umberger, after a 6-1 win over Buffalo on Friday.

Back to the grind? ...good way to put it....and he's exactly right. They'll need that again tonight to be successful against a hard working, hard checking, rock solid defensive club in Minnesota.

-LTL

Friday, November 14, 2008

Unidentified Flying Offense

**BREAKING NEWS**
UFO spotted in Buffalo
**BREAKING NEWS**

Good gawd...this game of hockey can be a whack job sometimes. The Jackets get outshot by a good margin....only have 2 PPs while giving up 8 against one of the best PPs in the league..and the result:

Jackets win 6-1.

Holy smokes! Who could have ever predicted that against a very good Buffalo team...and on the road?

This game of hockey is like the weather...completely unpredictable. The Jackets have played twice as good as last night but scored half as less and lost.


STOPLIGHT GAME REVIEW

GREEN
* Even though the Jackets threw up a half dozen goals the Jackets are in big trouble early without the play of Leclaire in the first and in the second. He was phenomenal for 60 minutes.

* Holy offense. Talk about converting on your chances... I think at one point they had 4 goals off of 8 shots. 12 different players on the scoreboard for the Jackets. Now that is balanced scoring.... and they scored just about every way.. off the rush, deflection, snap shots, one timers..

* That is the way to bounce back after a loss ladies and gentlemen. Major kudos to this team for getting up for this one

* Nice hustle by Chimera all night long... Got a nice redirection of a goal and what a beautiful job winning the races and how bout that setup to Malhotra for that 4th goal.

* Jackets got some bounces tonight... as Hitch has said things throughout the season seem to even themselves out -- this was one of those even out games.

* Sabres showed us how to run a PP..... good grief they had some nice puck movement out there.
* The Jackets however answered the bell with their PK. Pazzy was their best PKer and other than that 5 on 3, they did not allow a PP goal to the league's 4th best unit.

* Thanks for starting Lalime.... and not only that, thanks for pulling him and putting him back in in the 3rd. It seemed momentum was shifting when Miller when it but vanished when he was sat in the 3rd.Oppositions wants to start their backups..bring it on. They'll learn the hard way that this isn't your grandparent's Jackets.

* Love the passion from Brassard... awesome goal and what a light weight bout that could have been between he and Roy there towards the end. This kid's a player. Love to see Hitch playing him in the 3rd as well -- gaining that trust.

* Solid game for RJ Umberger notching a goal...a sweet feed to Chimera on his goal and just generally playing a solid all around game.. would have been sweet to see him get that shorthanded breakaway at the end.

* For those Jackets that had brutal +/- against Phoenix... they probably made up for in this one... the Jackets finished a combined +30... Hedja, Commodore & Chimera all led the way with +3s.

* Lots of Jacket Backers made the trip to Buffalo last night... way to represent!! (and we heard ya loud and clear on the post game!!)

* Commodore and Hejda with 4 blocked shots a piece...

* Jackets continue to light it up at even strength which is what all 6 goals were tonight.

YELLOW
* Somehow...someway the Jackets got out of that second period only surrendering 1 goal... somehow, someway they scored a goal off of 3 shots. Of course considering they spent half the period killing penalties its no wonder.

* One thing I absolutely love about Kristian Huselius is that when he commits a turnover...he busts his ass off to get back and make up for it....and half the time it pays off as he make the play to break it up at the other end.

* Strong game by Manny... nice conversion on Chimera's turnover.

* I thought Hejda struggled a bit early in the game with this puck movement but looked better as the game progressed.

* Nice to see Peca get rewarded with a goal for his unheralded hard work over the past couple of weeks.

* Nash is still 0 for an breakaways but he did get on the board off a beautiful feed by Commodore who added 2 assists on the night.

* Klesla was much better but sounds like he's back out with an ankle injury.

RED
* Backman....broken record I know but does he ever win a board battle? Soft doesn't begin to describe him. He needs some time in the press box... I don't care what he's making.

* Refs tried everything to get the Sabres back in the game in the 2nd.. Some warranted some not. That call on Commodore to give them a 5 on 3? C'mon.. dude twisted himself around his stick.

* So who questioned Hitch's lines....oh yeah that was me. That's why I'm some anonymous blogger!

* The game was well in hand when the Jackets finally got their first PP but it looked as bad as we've grown accustomed to the 2 chances it got.

* I'll give myself another red b/c I don't know about any of you but I wasn't even comfortable when we went up 4-0.

* Danny Gare's daughter's boyfriend... I don't want to run into that dude in a back alley.

3 BRIGHT LIGHTS ON THE NIGHT
1. Pascal Leclaire....welcome back Pazzy... fantastic game!
2. Offense and opportunity. Jackets converted on the opportunities given and put up a season high 6 spot.
3. Bounce back. After a horrible outing against the 'yotes the Jackets bounced back in a big way.

Nice to win a game by more than a goal or two eh? The Jackets needed this one (as did we fans!). This is big confidence booster as they make their way to Minnesota for a game tomorrow night.

Its even better to do it against the Sabres...and yes, I still remember some of those obnoxious fans who were booing kids in CBJ sweaters when the Sabre bandwagon was in full effect...and yeah, we won that one too.

Not a lot of time to enjoy it....and you better believe the Jackets haven't forgotten that hose job by the stripes in last time they were in Minnesota. That should be all the motivation this squad needs to get up for that one. Time to for a little payback

For the record -- I selected 2 points in the poll. I hope they prove me wrong tomorrow night!

-LTL

Stat of the day

A look at how the former Jackets from last season are doing with their new squads:

Nik Zherdev
19GP 7G 9A 16P +8 10PIM

Dan Fritsche
7GP 0G 2A 2P -2 0PIM

Ron Hainsey
15GP 3G 7A 10P -1 2PIM

Sergei Fedorov
12GP 4G 5A 9P +6 16PIM

Adam Foote
15GP 0G 1A 1P -3 6PIM

Curtis Glencross
18GP 2G 5A +1 12PIM

Jody Shelley
17GP 0G 1A 1P -1 27PIM

Gilbert Brule
(AHL) 7GP 5G 1A 6P 8PIM

Decent starts point wise for Z, Hainsey, Fedorov and GlennX given their roles. Fritsche has been healthy scratched quite a bit. Hard to tell how Foote is playing by stats alone. Shelley has been in every Sharks game which shows he's playing his role. Brule fought through an early injury and is putting up some solid stats for his AHL club.

-LTL

Quote of the day

More Z:

""Alexei Kovalev," Chris Drury offered as a Zherdev comparison after a game earlier this season. Both high and faint praise considering how unfulfilling became Kovalev's tours of duty, particularly the second, in New York. "

That was from an article this morning in the New York Post... the writer goes on to say:

There was a difference between Zherdev's home and road performances for the Blue Jackets, who traded him to New York for a second-pair defenseman, Fedor Tyutin. That's selling low on a high-end talent, even if Coach Ken Hitchcock insists Zherdev, who will be a restricted free agent at the end of this season, potentially ending the Rangers ($3.25 million) obligation, grew as a teammate.

Like Kovalev, Zherdev likes to beat the same guy twice. Also doesn't merely change costumes in a phone booth, but also can stickhandle through two opponents there at the same time.


-LTL

Very cool!

Here is a game preview from a poster over on HF that I thought was very original, creative and fun!





Well done!!

You can see the blown up version by visiting this thread over on HF.

I also wanted to give a shout out to the Columbus Crew for their big playoff win last night.. they are on their way to the MLS Cup finals for the first time ever. Congrats!!

-LTL

Pre-game thoughts: Bounce back time


Coming off a "Coyote Ugly" loss (damn, I should have used that as a title) to Phoenix on Wednesday the Jackets hit the road for games against Buffalo (tonight) and Minnesota (tomorrow night).

First up are the Sabres whom the Jackets are a surprising 5-2-1 against all time including 3-2-1 in Buffalo. Thsi season the Sabres are 9-3-3 with a solid 5-2-1 home record. They are led by Tomas Vanek (yeah, another guy the Jackets could have drafted from the powerhouse '03 class) who can, how should I say, light the lamp! He's got 12g, 3a for 15 points in 15 games. His 12 goals are second best in the league.

The Sabres are a sound club all around. They have strong goaltending, a offense that can move the puck and dent the back of the net and plenty of grit mixed in. Their special teams are truly special with the 6th ranked PP and 4th ranked PK - that's how they beat you.

Yeah, the Jackets better show up to have a chance tonight.

KEYS TO LIGHTING EM UP
* Jackets have to do a better job on special teams than the Sabres. If they want to win the must win these battles.

* Vanek is their horse. He can score just about anywhere on the ice in just about any fashion. In tight, slap shot, deflections, on the rush... he's dangerous. Jackets have got to contain him.

* Need an inspired effort here.... none of this "too much rest" crap as an excuse. Boys need to come out ready to play from the drop of the first puck... hell, I want them ready to play on the bus ride over... just chomping at the bit to get out there and win this one.

* Sabres are similar to the Canadiens.. they have speed and quick transition. The Jackets cannot give up the kinds of odd man rushes and quality chances they did against Phoenix. They must be much more aware of who is on the ice and play a much stronger/tighter game positionally as our d is not the most mobile group in the NHL.

* Be it Mason or Leclaire... going to need some game changing saves tonight.. the Jackets must get above average goaltending.

* The rookies continue to show up.. its time for some vets to carry some of the load. Nash finally got on the board...will that spark him? The Modin-Peca-Torres line cooled a bit and we need it to heat up. Umberger and Huselius also need to contribute...

* I really hope Methot can go tonight *crosses fingers & toes*.

GAME SPOTLIGHT
After getting called out by Hitch, how does 61 respond? I look for a big game from the monster.

As a poster pointed out earlier, the good news is that the Jackets play up to their competition. The bad news is that they also play down. Fortunately they are looking up tonight as the Sabres are a very strong opponent.

Its all starts at 7:30 tonight.

GO JACKETS!

-LTL

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Stat of the day

Kris Russell scored his first goal of his AHL career as the Crunch knocked off the Albany River Rats 5-3. Russell also added an assist.

Wilson, Sigalet, MacDonald and Mayorov also collected goals.

...oh and that 1st round pick from last year... yeah, he added 3 assists. He's got 5g, 6a for a 11p in 9 games.

One more stat for you. The Jackest officially have the worst ranked PP in the league converting at 12.4%.

-LTL

Clunker

So much for the 6 game point streak....

The Jackets dropped an ugly one last night to the Coytoes by a final of 5-2. Quite frankly the Jackets as a group were no-shows and were man handled, save for the final few moments of the game when Phoenix let up on the accelerator.

The biggest story of this game might just be the post game press conference when Hitch had this to say about his captain:

“Rick (Nash) wasn’t very effective today, for whatever reason,” Hitchcock said. “But he had a lot of company. A lot of company.”

The timing of this comment is very interesting as I thought Nash wasn't nearly as bad as he's been earlier this season (more on that later).

Make no mistake about it, this comment was a very calculated move by Hitch. He obviously wasn't happy with the way this team came out after playing so well the previous week and his motivational tactics are starting at the top. The Jackets squad cannot afford to "clunk" there way through any game -- especially against a Western Conference opponent they will most likely be trying to knock out of the playoffs to get in.


STOPLIGHT GAME REVIEW


GREEN
* After a game like this is hard to find any silver lining but the Jackets did do a few things well. They killed off a 4 minute minor to start with.

* I personally though Jason Chimera was our strongest forward from whistle to whistle. He was one of the few that actually had his legs moving and he was driving the net hard. He did collect an assist, registered a team high 5 shots, 1 hit, 1 give away and was a -2.

* Certainly not Brassard's strongest game but he was one of the few that was busting his butt in the 3rd period.. had a beautiful feed to Nash and grabbed a garbage goal. His quest for the Calder continues.

* I appreciated Boll's willingness to get dirty with a real tough guy in Fedoruk. He was a bit out of his league there but knew his team needed something...any kind of spark.

* Shane Doan was an absolute beast last night.

* Hey I did get a post game tour of the new R Bar.... that thing is going to be sweet! Target opening is late Nov early Dec.

YELLOW
* The Jackets did get a PP goal and Nash did get a goal. All to late to matter.

* This game certainly wasn't on Mason. As Hitch said, boy did he get hung out to dry. He made some sterling saves but there were just way to many quality chances.

RED
* Defense was a complete mess. Way to many breakdowns by everyone. All of the blueliners were bad but I thought Rusty and Tollefsen were especially craptastic. When Methot gets healthy I think the coaches have to think long and hard about putting him back with Tyutin in the top 4.

* Overall energy was unacceptable. They were beaten in every facet of the game. This team had 3 days off....well essentially 4 if you count last night's effort.

* 11k+ for attendance... so it goes.

3 BRIGHT LIGHTS ON THE NIGHT
1. R Bar tour
2. Free ticket
3. At least they didn't get shut out

A quick nugget I learned last night from a source I can't mention. Apparently Nash has been injured for weeks but kept it quiet because he knew if he was out there, team would game plan against him with their best defenders which would free up the rookies to do their thing. Eventually he had to disclose the injury as coaching staff, like the fans, were worried about his play.

Now take that for what its worth but it comes from a very reliable source. Frankly I think that shows a lot of leadership and character from the captain.

Anyhow, the Jackets need to quickly forget about this one... I know I'm trying to.

Look for this team to bounce back in Buffalo tomorrow night. They'll need to bring everything they've got as the Sabres are a very good team that is 9-3-3 and 5-2-1 at home.

-LTL